The 95th season of the National Football League kicks off Thursday. Niners Daily previews every matchup of Week 1.
Thursday, 5:30 pm
The Favorite: Seattle Seahawks by 6.
The Key Storyline: *Center of attention. *The Green Bay Packers will trot out rookie center Corey Linsley for the opener in Seattle. How will he fare against the defending Super Bowl champions? Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin says "it's going to be a long night" for the rookie.
Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers play the Seahawks at home in Week 13 and on the road in Week 15. The team does not face the Packers this regular season.
Sunday, 10:00 am
The Favorite: Baltimore Ravens by 2.
The Key Storyline: *New kids on the block? *The Ravens are coming off a lackluster 8-8 season and look to prove that they are still the team to beat in the AFC North. The Cincinnatti Bengals showed promise in 2013 making it to the postseason but were ousted early by the Chargers 27-10. Will newly signed QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals prove they are the new top dogs of the division?
Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers will not face the Ravens or the Bengals this regular season.
The Favorite: New Orleans Saints by 3.
The Key Storyline: Something to prove. The 2012 Atlanta Falcons were one of the best teams in the NFL. But after losing to the 49ers in the NFC Title game, the Falcons went 4-12 in 2013 and tied for last in the NFC South. With wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones healthy, a bounce-back season would not be a surprise. A Week 1 win against the Saints is just the type of confidence boost needed for Atlanta to get back in the thick of things.
Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers will play the Saints in New Orleans Week 10. The team does not face the Falcons this regular season.
The Favorite: Chicago Bears by 7.
The Key Storyline: Defensive questions. With quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte, and two premier wideouts in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffry, the Bears offsense is as dangerous as any in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, the defense was ranked dead last (32nd) in the league in stopping the run last season. A Buffalo Bills rushing attack led by CJ Spiller will need to dominate the Bears defense and take pressure off of unproven QB EJ Manuel.
Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers play the Bears at home Week 2. The team does not face the Bills this regular season.
The Favorite: Houston Texans by 3.
The Key Storyline: *New leadership. *After a breakout rookie season, Redskins QB Robert Griffin III struggled in 2013 coming off an ACL injury. With a new head coach, Jay Gruden, and an offseason to fully heal, RGIII looks to prove the critics wrong and take Washington back to the postseason. The Texans, too, are under new leadership with Bill O'Brien entering his first season as head coach. The defensive line is one of the best in the league, but questions remain if journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick can take the Texans to the playoffs.
Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers play the Redskins at home Week 12. The team does not face the Texans this regular season.Worth Sharing:
The Favorite: Kansas City Chiefs by 4.
The Key Storyline: *Back to reality? *Alex Smith and the Chiefs are out to prove the success they had in 2013 was no fluke. The team will be missing wide receiver Dwayne Bowe but they trot out Jamaal Charles, one of the best backs in the league, along with multiple pro-bowlers on the defense.
Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers play the Chiefs at home in Week 5. The team does not face the Titans this regular season. * *
The Favorite: New England Patriots by 6
The Key Storyline: *Best in the East. *The Patriots have won the AFC East division 11 of the last 12 seasons. The Miami Dolphins made it interesting last season and seem to pose the biggest hurdle in the Patriots quest for a sixth-straight division title. Dolphins head coach Joe Phillbin and QB Ryan Tannehill are entering their third season together and have to show that they can take this team to the next level.
Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers do not face the Patriots or the Dolphins this regular season. Worth Sharing:
The Favorite: Pittsburg Steelers by 6.5.
The Key Storyline:*QB controversy. *Browns QB Bryan Hoyer will have the chance to prove his coaches made the right decision in starting him over rookie Johnny Manziel against a Steelers defense that is no longer at the top of the league.
Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers do not face the Browns or the Steelers this regular season.
The Favorite: New York Jets by 6.
The Key Storyline: *Derek Carr has the keys. *The Jets heavy-blitzing defense will be going up against Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr, the only rookie quarterback to be starting Week 1. Carr went wild in the preseason to earn the starting nod over a bruised-up Matt Schaub. Will he keep the starter title?
Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers play the Raiders in Oakland Week 14. The team does not play the Jets this regular season.Worth Sharing:
The Favorite: Philadelphia Eagles by 10.
The Key Storyline:*High flying offense. *Chip Kelly took the Eagles to the playoffs with a 10-6 first season as head coach. NFL defenses have had a full offseason to adapt to his hurry-up offense and to study quarterback Nick Foles. Will the Eagles offense stay one step ahead of them?
Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers play the Eagles at home in Week 4. The team does not face the Jaguars this regular season.
The Favorite: St. Louis Rams by 4.
The Key Storyline:The Adrian Peterson factor. *Both teams have questions at quaterback and s*uccess for the Vikings rides squarely on Peterson's shoulders.
Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers play the Rams in St. Louis Week 6 and at home Week 9. The team does not play the Vikings this regular season. Worth Sharing:
Sunday, 1:25 pm
The Favorite: San Francisco 49ers by 5.
The Key Storyline:*Rivalry renewed. *Andrew Pentis, digital guru/writer for 49ers.com, wrote a line so good on Wednesday that I have to repurpose it here. "The 'team of the 1980s' and the 'team of the 90s,' which started facing off in the 60s and became rivals in the 70s, meet to open the 2014 regular season."Worth Sharing:
The Favorite: Carolina Panthers by 1.
The Key Storyline:Carolina wideouts vs. Bucs secondary. *With the loss of long-time number one wide receiver Steve Smith in the offseason, Cam Newton and the Panthers will rely on Jerricho Cochery and rookie Kelvin Benjamin to go against a solid Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary.
Vs. the 49ers: The 49ers do not fave the Panthers or the Buccaneers this season.Sunday, 5:30 pm* **
The Favorite: Denver Broncos by 7.5.
The Key Storyline:Luck vs. Manning. *Peyton Manning had his emotional return to face his former team in Indiannapolis last season. With that storyline checked off, the focus now is on the matchup between one of the best quarterbacks in the game in Manning and one of its emerging stars in Andrew Luck. Vs. the 49ers:The 49ers play the Broncos in Denver in Week 7. The team does not face the Colts this regular season. Monday, 4:10 pm* **
The Favorite: Detroit Lions by 5.5.
The Key Storyline:New York Giants new scheme. *Eli Manning takes the field in the regular season for the first time with Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator. The two did not find a rhythm in the preseason, will this change Week 1?Vs. the 49ers: *The 49ers play the Giants in New York Week 11. The team does not face the Lions this season.
Monday, 7:20 pm
The Favorite: Arizona Cardinal by 3.
The Key Storyline:West coast best coast. *The AFC and NFC West, two of the best divisions in football, face each other this season and the first meeting seems evenly matched across the board.Vs. the 49ers: The 49ers play the Cardinals in Arizona Week 3 and at home Week 17. The team also faces the Chargers at home in Week 16.THE FLOOR IS YOURS. SOUND OFF IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW.*